Ultra-distance runner Kerri Kanuga is back on the fundraising trail this weekend.
In honor of 8-year-old Cayman resident Hannah Meeson, and on behalf the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, Kanuga will run the Keys100 Ultramarathon in Key West, Florida, on Saturday in preparation for the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California, on July 18.
Since returning from her successful 160-mile Badwater-qualifier in Brazil, Kanuga has run Cayman’s Off the Beaten Track 50K ultramarathon and has been cross-training with Metafit, swimming and running.
She has also been training with “Tyrone” – the nickname she gave to the tire she is often seen pulling around roadside for training.
Approaching her second go at the Keys 100-miler, Kanuga says, “I feel pretty good. I have a foot injury, but otherwise, I feel great.”
Her goal is to break 24 hours in the race, which would be a first for her. Last year Kanuga was 10th female overall in 25:34:45.
“It was a very hot year for the race last year and many people DNF [Did Not Finish],” she said. “Many people who were not used to hot conditions ended up on an IV drip. There was even a crew member that had to be evacuated by helicopter.
“The heat is not something [to] underestimate,” Kanuga says. “I am very lucky that training in Cayman conditions me for this.”
Kanuga says in Cayman she often does 20 miles of repeats in the heat to condition her for Badwater, “which is my ultimate goal.”
The Badwater challenge spans three mountain ranges, 135 miles through Death Valley, billed as the world’s toughest foot race. Kanuga’s companions in the race will be ultramarathon legend Lisa Smith-Batchen, and nun, Sister Mary Beth, included as her Badwater crew. Kanuga is one of 100 people accepted to run and one of 25 women participating.
“I had to apply for Badwater [and the] minimum requirements are 3×100 races. My 160-mile race in Brazil was my qualifier,” said the endurance runner. “To even be considered for the world’s toughest foot race is an honor [and] I am astounded by the fact that I am able to compete and improve as a long distance runner at age 46. I have never felt stronger in my life.”
“As always,” said Kanuga, “I am running for St. Baldrick’s to raise awareness of childhood cancer and hopefully some funds for the charity also.”
Hannah Meeson had been battling medulloblastoma since 2012, and while she currently shows no evidence of the disease, she experiences cognitive and hearing difficulties. In her honor, Kanuga has raised more than $33,000 for the Heroes for Hannah Fund for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
The fund honors Hannah and other childhood cancer survivors in Cayman, including Skylar “Mimi” Ebanks, Tayden Grant, Beau Shields, Annabel Reading and Charli Foster.
“Hannah is a beautiful, brave little girl who was simply given a bad hand. I know that if I experience discomfort when I train, I can stop,” Kanuga says. “These kids don’t have that luxury, and it breaks my heart that they have to go through this.
“Ultra-running keeps me focused on my goals. I have so much gratitude that my body can run at this level, and I am very happy that my sport allows me to give back and raise money and awareness for St. Baldrick’s.”
“St. Baldrick’s is a wonderful organization,” said Gaylene Meeson, Hannah’s mother. “They only fund pediatric cancer research, and they do it well.”
“We are delighted that Kerri has chosen our hero fund, Heroes for Hannah as her inspiration and motivation to complete such grueling challenges,” she continued.
To support Kerri Kanuga on her fundraising efforts in the Keys100 and Badwater, visit www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/mypage/2063/2016. For information about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Heroes for Hannah Hero Fund, visit www.stbaldricks.org and www.facebook.com/HeroesforHannah.